EU minister in China to discuss improved food safety

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety China People's republic of china World trade organization

The EU's top health representative is meeting with China's
officials this week in a bid to ensure processors and others get
safe supplies from a country beset by problems with its quality

Health commissioner Markos Kyprianou is part of a high-level EU delegation holding talks in China this week. He will focus on better co-operation between the bloc and China on food and health issues. "Chinese products account for the largest number of food safety alerts to our rapid alert system, and this trend is growing,"​ he stated. "While this partly reflects the volume of trade, it is also symptomatic of a number of problems we have encountered which need to be addressed."​ A recent spate of food safety problems related to supplies from China, along with dangerous substances found in other products such as toothpaste has put the international spotlight on the country's export system. China has pledged to fix the problem in the wake of large numbers of recalls in Europe and North America. Some countries have banned specific imports from China until the country beef up its inspections of goods before they leave the country.. Since China has become a major supplier of ingredients and finished products to processors across the world, many companies have had to scramble to find alternate sources, or conduct more tests. During his visit Kyprianou will have meetings with China vice premier, the minister for quality supervision, inspection and quarantine, and the ministers for agriculture and for health. Kyprianou said increased co-operation between China and the EU on food safety is expected to be a key focus of discussions. The commissioner will also address the issue of illegal trade in food, and call for the development of more rapid and effective communication between China and the EU on the issue. He will be discussing with his Chinese counterparts a number of practical steps to strengthen co-operation on food safety between the EU and China. "These include training, enhanced information exchange and technical cooperation,"​ he stated. "Safeguarding consumer confidence in food safety is the best way to enable our trade in food products to flourish."​ In response to worldwide criticism China's government said it would make food safety a top priority. The measures include the establishment of an inter-ministerial group in charge of food and product safety. Kyprianou said he would also share ideas on how to enhance and control the safety of food throughout the production chain, and underline the EU's willingness to support and collaborate with China. Kyprianou will also present an application currently being developed by the Commission that would allow China direct access to the data transmitted through the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). The cross-border reporting system will allow China's regulators to have a clearer idea of where problems lie and where controls need to be targeted, he said. On 6 September, Kyprianou will participate in a session at the World Economic Forum on the prevention of chronic disease. He will also participate in round table discussion on biotechnology on 7 September. On 11 September, he will meet the agriculture minister, Sun Zhengcai, and the health minister Chen Zhu in Beijing. He plans to discuss EU-China cooperation on the primary prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases that threaten human health, and more collaboration on animal disease control. The next day he will meet with Li Changjiang, head of the Chinese governmental agency for quality supervision, inspection and quarantine. The two will hold the meeting under the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed by EU and China's representatives on 16 January 2006. The memorandum of understanding calls for better communication and collaboration between EU and Chinese authorities on food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary issues and general product safety. Kyprianou will discuss Chinas fishery products, the contamination of rice with the unauthorised genetically-modified Bt-63, and the contamination of protein-rich feed ingredients with melamine. The importance of a Chinese system for fruit and vegetable exports, which is compatible with international standards, will also be discussed. Kyprianou will also stress the importance of a transparent, multi-sector approach to ensuring the safety of food products, when he meets with Wu Yi, vice premier of the state council and head of the recently established ministerial group in charge of food and product safety issues. Kyprianou will visit China and Hong Kong from 6 to 14 September. The Commissioner will also participate in two sessions of the World Economic Forum's meeting.

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